The Great Controversy
All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the global flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.
(Gen. 3; 6-8; Job 1:6-12; Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:12-18; Rom. 1:19-32; 3:4; 5:12-21; 8:19-22; 1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 3:6; Rev. 12:4-9.)
The Beginning of Good and Evil-The Great Controversy
The controversy between God and Satan is recorded at the very beginning of God’s word, but it started before the creation of Adam and Eve and their encounter with Satan in the garden of Eden. Even further back in time, the battle between good and evil arose in an unlikely place… under unusual circumstances.
An important principle in knowing the difference between good and evil…right and wrong is this: It is defined by God alone and revealed in His word. It is impressed upon the heart of every person through the Holy Spirit. Mankind has no authority to define or modify what God has already defined. God is the creator of good and Satan is the creator of evil.
“When he (the Spirit) comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.
John 16:8-11 (MSG)
To understand the beginning of good and evil and the great controversy between Christ and Satan, we must go back to a time before the creation on man. In fact, we must go back heaven itself! Using the King of Tyre as symbol for Lucifer (The name for Satan before he fell), God reveals to us the story of Lucifer and the beginning of sin.
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;…You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.”
Ezekiel 28: 12,13
The picture of a man in a red suit, goatee, pitch fork standing in flames is an inaccurate picture of this being formerly referred to as Lucifer. Lucifer means, “light bearer” or “morning star.” Lucifer was wise and beautiful. But something happened to Lucifer and iniquity began to grow in his heart.
For you have said in your heart:
“I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.”
Isaiah 14: 13, 14
Someone has said that Lucifer had an “I” problem. Notice the number of times he uses with the word “I.” Lucifer began to think too highly of himself. He became prideful and thought he could “be like the Most High” God!
These sinful traits of character shows its ugly face in our world today. Pride, discontent, and narcissism are ancient signs of rebellion against God. Ultimately, it leads to shame and destruction, which is the very destination of Satan and the angels who follow him.
Lucifer was perfect in his ways, but iniquity rose up in his heart due to his “I” problem (pride)
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
Ezekiel 28: 14-15
But this pride, discontent, and rebellion (as with all his followers) will lead to a fall and ultimately to eternal destruction:
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
Satan and his angels were removed from the holy atmosphere of God’s presence and the faithful angels. Thus began a war unlike any seen on this earth:
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 12: 7-9
Contrary to popular opinion, the earth is Satan’s headquarters, not some eternally burning place under the earth aka hell.
And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.
William Shakespeare was right when he said,
“Hell is empty. All the devils are here.”
Satan’s time on earth begins to end when Jesus returns and leaves it empty. The wicked dead and the wicked alive are destroyed, and the righteous dead and alive are taken to where Jesus is now-heaven. This earth will be the place of bondage for him for 1,000 years as he awaits his judgment with no one to tempt or carry out his wicked deeds. The clock for the 1,000 years starts after the return of Christ and the resurrection.
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.
Revelation 20: 1-3
For more information on the 1,000 years see:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!…
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
Isaiah 14: 12, 15-16
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.
Satan Kicked Out of Heaven
Because of Lucifer’s rebellion against God and His pride, the destruction process began with Him and his angels being removed from their station in heaven .
When Satan was barred from heaven and sent to this earth, he took one third of the angels. After the fall of Adam and Eve, he began his great destructive work on planet earth. When Jesus was born, he was right there working through Herod to kill the little infant Jesus as told in this passage.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
The following summarizes the fall of Lucifer as discussed so far.
“Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation. The Scripture says, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” Ezekiel 28:17. “Thou hast said in thine heart, . . . I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will be like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:13, 14. Though all his glory was from God, this mighty angel came to regard it as pertaining to himself. Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator. Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.”
“Now the perfect harmony of heaven was broken. Lucifer’s disposition to serve himself instead of his Creator aroused a feeling of apprehension when observed by those who considered that the glory of God should be supreme. In heavenly council the angels pleaded with Lucifer. The Son of God presented before him the greatness, the goodness, and the justice of the Creator, and the sacred, unchanging nature of His law. God Himself had established the order of heaven; and in departing from it, Lucifer would dishonor his Maker and bring ruin upon himself. But the warning, given in infinite love and mercy, only aroused a spirit of resistance. Lucifer allowed his jealousy of Christ to prevail, and became the more determined.”
Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 36, 37
The work of Satan:
|The Bible Says Satan:|
|Deceives / persecutes (Revelation 12:9, 13)||Quotes/misquotes Bible (Matthew 4:5, 6)|
|Falsely accuses / murders (Revelation 12:10 John 8:44)||Traps / ensnares (2 Timothy 2:26 1 Peter 5:8)|
|Makes war against God’s people (Revelation 12:17)||Binds / prompts betrayal (Luke 13:16 John 13:2, 21)|
|Imprisons (Revelation 2:10)||Possesses / hinders (Luke 22:3-5 1 Thessalonians 2:18)|
|Works miracles / lies (Revelation 16:13, 14 John 8:44)||Appears as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)|
|Brings disease / afflicts (Job 2:7)||His demons impersonate pastors (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)|
|Slanders (“Devil” means “slanderer”)||Calls fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13)|
How Satan was able to introduce his rebellion to planet earth:
The first recorded incident of controversy about good and evil between God and Satan is recorded just after the creation story:
And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
All was good for Adam and Eve until this question. Satan brought doubt to Eve by simply asking a question about her own understanding of what God had said. “Eve, maybe you didn’t understand God correctly. I know God better than you and I know what He meant so I am going to interpret for you. Your understanding is too literal and too simple.”
“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
As is Satan’s method, he mixes part lie and part truth:
The lie: “You will not surely die.” He implied, Your disobedience to God’s instructions will not result in death. We know this is a lie for God said through Paul.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—
The truth: “You will become like God….You will know good from evil.” We know this is truth for God said,
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…”
Does this exchange between the Eve and Satan sound familiar? In our modern quick-food society, we group ourselves around “interpreters” of God’s simple word, but God tells us through Peter:
…no prophecy (teaching) of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
2 Peter 1:20
The only interpreter of God’s word is found in the next verse:
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:21
It is the Holy Spirit (the 3rd member of the Trinity) who provides the interpretation of God’s voice through the inspiration of holy men who speak the truth. Without the work of the Holy Spirit in this interpretation, we fall on dangerous ground of misunderstanding not only God’s word, but God Himself! Each one of us as individuals are called to be like a little group of people called Bearans:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Why didn’t God just destroy Satan?
Yesterday, I heard a presentation from my pastor that addresses the question, “Why didn’t God just destroy Satan and save us a lot of problems?”
If Satan had been consumed up in smoke when “iniquity was found in him,” shortly afterwards the other angels would have deducted they would be likewise consumed if they were not careful. Sin would have remained even though Satan was gone. Remember, sin was not understood and it is likely the angels would have served Him out of fear and misunderstanding of his real character i.e. love.
Another person asked, “Well, why didn’t God just zap their memory of the eradication of Satan? No one would know or remember.”
The pastor thought for a minute and said, “Yes, no one would know, except for One. God would know. It would be against his nature of good and purity to do such a thing, even secretly”
The pastor continued by using an example and a question. “Let’s say there is a van full of women and children that is hit head-on by a drunken truck driver. Why didn’t God prevent it?” This would be the first question of almost anyone. Shouldn’t God have forced his way upon the choice of the drunken driver and the event?
He went on to say, “God does not interfere in man’s affair unless he is given permission! This thought I had to ponder. Then I realized, I have to give God permission to save me. I have to give him permission to intervene in my life. How do I do this? The answer if found in talking to Him (also know as prayer.)
The Lord Jesus did this when He taught us to pray,
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Sin is here because our ancestors have not asked God to intervene. When they have, He shows up and protects His people. But, overall, we have not given him permission to do so. In fact, we have told him to go away…we are just fine without Him. But are we? Satan has shown us that his way leads to unhappiness, death, and destruction.
Like an earthly father, God wanted to protect his children from evil. His plan was to give them nothing but life, love and joy. God is love. He wanted his creation to know only love. But, evil entered into the garden and they were deceived. It is easy to second guess God allowing this to happen. But, He honored the greatest and most powerful gift to mankind: the power of choice. Love cannot be forced. Faith cannot be legislated.
But love can draw people to the Lord. If not resisted, each person can find peace from sin and its penalty. God’s love and character was made possible by the death of Jesus on the cross for every man and woman’s sin. He paid the penalty for sin…eternal death.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
The journey through good and evil will make forever strong the love and faith of those who choose God over the accusations and lies of Satan. It is because of this knowledge of good and evil that sin will never rise up a second time:
Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time.
God will not allow sin to be in some small corner of the universe. Sin and sinner alike will be consumed to ashes for eternity.
Satan is consumed by fire and turned to ashes. Then the controversy is ended.
“You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you.
The same will be the fate for those who did not give God permission to save them:
You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.
…and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
2 Peter 2:6
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”
Great Controversy, page 678